Clothes that “talk” to Facebook aren’t just fun and games. They could also provide first responders with critical, real-time information in times of emergency. With this in mind, a group of students at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology developed a jacket that uses a Bluetooth-enabled cellphone to communicate with the Internet, particularly social networks that can help large groups coordinate their efforts. Designed to be worn by firefighters and rescue workers, who typically don’t have time to fuss with additional gear, the jacket features a built-in screen on its sleeve and a vibrating collar that alerts the wearer of incoming messages.
Coupled with add-ons like GPS tracking or even health-monitoring, the technology could prove invaluable to emergency workers who need to make every second count.
Coupled with location-based data like GPS tracking or even health-monitoring, the technology could prove invaluable to emergency workers.
“Most of our focus when we use computers is on the screen. But in an emergency situation, we cannot expect rescue crews to do their jobs while fumbling with a tiny mobile phone when they need to read and send messages,” says Babak Farshchian, a researcher at SINTEF, the Scandinavian organization that oversaw the project. “It doesn’t just require full concentration—it also requires two hands.”
All the electronics, including the Arduino microcontroller that powers it, are cleverly hidden within the lining of the jacket, which means fewer cables to potentially trip on.
The students are currently working on a second generation of the garment, which will be evaluated by SOCIETIES, a social-computing group based in Norway, at its upcoming disaster-management trial.
Images ©Gry Karin Stimo